Jerry Jones was desperate to find someone to blame (other than himself, of course) for the Dallas Cowboys' latest disappointing season, and it looks like he got his man in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
A frustrated Jones said during a radio interview last week that "change is necessary at 8-8. We're going to have some changes. ... There are a lot of teams that haven't been at .500, but nobody hasn't been at .500 and spent as much cash as I'm spending."
The obvious candidate to receive a pink slip during Jones' reorganization period was, in most people's eyes, head coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys have finished 8-8 in both of Garrett's two full seasons as head coach (he finished the 2010 year 5-3 after taking over for Wade Phillips), plus lost Week 17 winner-take-all games for the division each of those years.
How much of that was Ryan's fault? In Jones' opinion, enough of it to go another way on the defensive side of the ball. The statistics seem to back him up -- Dallas finished this year ranked 19th in yards allowed and 24th in points.
Injuries certainly played a big role in Dallas' failures on that side of the ball, though. And there are plenty of Cowboys fans out there who would pin more of the blame, rightfully so, on an underachieving offense.
That is Garrett's domain. The Cowboys' head coach calls the plays for the Dallas attack. Despite having Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and others, the Cowboys finished just 15th in points scored this year, and the offense flopped for three quarters in that Week 17 loss.
Jones still could switch things up on offense, too, by giving current offensive coordinator Bill Callahan more responsibility ... or by canning Callahan and adding a new O.C.
The Cowboys' play calling appears to be the only job duty Garrett is in danger of losing at this time, even with Jones promising swift and sweeping adjustments. But the Ryan scapegoating may go down as a mistake, and it's already one that drew the ire of a couple Cowboys defenders.
The window may be closing on Garrett's time in Dallas -- Ryan and running backs coach Skip Peete have been let go already, and more of Garrett's staff could be on the unemployment line soon, so eventually, Dallas' inability to get to the postseason has to fall on the head coach.
Garrett apparently will get a third shot, however, to turn the Cowboys around, with Jones looking over his shoulder.
"I'm going to spend a lot of time visiting with people outside of the organization. ... That will help us evaluate how to do the things that I know what our fans want to do, and that's not be sitting here at .500," Jones said. "There are a lot of teams that haven't been at .500, but nobody hasn't been at .500 and spent as much cash as I'm spending." On Romo, Jones said, "Tony is a tremendous asset, and he's an asset that is going to be with the Dallas Cowboys for, as far as I am concerned, a long time."